Party Politics?

Struggling with voting choices in upcoming 2015 election. The 7-way debate of last week was predictable. Good to see 3 women leaders, though equally sad to see their “team women” photo-call opportunity not being missed.

Nicola Sturgeon was predictably smooth, skilled debater like Nick Clegg, but irrelevant (on principle) unlike Clegg. Irrelevant to UK politics that is, so a relatively easy job to come out serenely above the Westminster party-political sniping. Plaid Cymru predictably still having to compete for their Welsh vote, unlike SNP in Scotland, so narrowly targetted messages from Leanne Wood. Nigel Farage on the other hand with an opportunity to play the broader statesman he was aspiring towards, clearly feeling the need to reinforce his core support with his one-trick message – controlling immigration and stopping foreign aid – especially as stopping foreign aid can be counted as economic policy too (!)

I commented some weeks ago that it was a pity the single issue parties had to pretend to have full manifestos across all policy areas – like the big boys. As special interest groups they’d be better sticking to their core principles as part of negotiating their interests in future alliances, rather than diluting their resources dreaming up economic policies – especially as economic policies are for the birds anyway, be honest. But no, the media wants the effin’ numbers.

Take John Simpson on BBC R4 Today this morning interviewing Natalie Bennett – excellent again, as she was last week. She was tripped up a few weeks ago, when she stumbled over numbers that needed to add up – seen as a major gaff – but in fact that’s when I expressed the opinion above – that the single-issue parties shouldn’t pretend to have government manifestos. They should be marketing their main principles to influence and fit with policies of government parties. Simpson couldn’t get his head round the difference between policy as a statement of principles and governing values, and “manifesto” as plans (and promises and contracts with numbers and dates) for a government. Well done to Natalie for sticking to her point.

It’s a pity “marketing” has to be cast as a necessary evil – tainted by commercial consumer business – whereas what single issues really require is explaining how they (might) fit with bigger pictures. Proper narratives, proper vision. The only “selling” the Simpsons of this world seem to get is arithmetic. Brainless stuff, and irrelevant to the values that matter. As an engineer with interests in Oil & Gas and Energy businesses, I actually disagree with a number of Green policies as plans, but Natalie talks the most sense, and I prefer sense to arithmetic. Principles matter, even if you have to bend them to pragmatism.

Did anyone – in the first week of campaigning – mention foreign policy so far, even once (unless you count Farage)? The threat to stable world peace from Islamism has to be our top issue – other local economic difficulties pale into insignificance. Why should Westminster politicians be trading blows over NHS operational arrangements – simply allocate the tax funds, empower the management, get out of the bloody way and focus on what really matters. (At least no-one’s offered to “reform” education – again – yet.)

Until we have PR – even more critical in these post-two-party-system days – when one party trying to establish its identity distinct from all others is less and less likely to have the complete package, then all the bets for voting on policy content are off. Naturally, I’m a social democrat, so Lib Dem by preference, with acknowledged takes from conservative values (with the small c) and the “united conservatism” angle of UKIP, but Labour in practice since Clegg destroyed all the value previously earned by the gang of four in his alliance with the Tories. Labour in my local constituency – local boy, done good, knows the issues.

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